Early Marriage Happens in the US Too
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Across the globe, young girls are routinely abducted, blackmailed, deceived, and/or coerced to marry against their will. You have heard the stories, but perhaps your outrage at child brides being robbed of education, safety, health and freedom is tempered by the rationale that forced marriages occur in distant countries with unfamiliar cultures. Only, thats not exactly true.
The Tahirih Justice Center, a legal defense organization protecting women and girls fleeing human rights abuses, found as many as 3,000 known and suspected forced marriages in girls as young as 13 living in immigrant communities in the US in 2011. These are girls like Mariama, 15, who, living in Brooklyn after emigrating from Guinea, ended up running away to a homeless shelter to escape an impending marriage to a man from Angola twice her age.
Unlike the United Kingdom, which has begun to confront forced marriage with legal and social measures, the US has few laws and policies that prohibit parents from compelling their daughters to marry. Just as unsettling, only 16% of the 500 social-service and other agencies Tahirih surveyed claimed to be equipped to help victims of forced marriages, and less than a quarter could even recognize when girls were at risk of becoming child brides.
With no place to turn for help, many girls feel frightened of retribution from their own families and end up contemplating suicide or succumbing to their parents wishes. When they marry at such a young age, they miss out on what it means to be girlsand ultimately are denied the chance to grow up and thrive as independent, educated women.
Making a Difference
Aiming to help women and girls in the US who are affected by early marriage, The Tahirih Justice Center will build a web portal to give them access to vital information and resources. Tahirih also hopes to educate service providers, advocates and government agencies so they can better aid victims and help eradicate forced early marriage.
Click here to support Tahirih Justice Centers effort to educate and help girls and women forced into early marriage. To learn more about the Chime for Change campaign to convene, unite and strengthen the voices speaking out for girls and women around the world, visit chimeforchange.org.